15 September 2021

15,000 Southland Jobs Supported by Wage Subsidy

Fifteen thousand jobs in Southland were supported by the wage subsidy during the August lockdown, a Ministry of Social Development report says.

The 15,000 jobs equate to 29 per cent of jobs in the region, according to the report – with Southland’s reliance on the wage subisdy the second lowest in the country behind Wellington at 27 per cent.

The wage subsidy in August covered a two week period at the rate of $600 a week for each full-time employee and $359 a week for each part-time employee.

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey put Southland’s low reliance on the subsidy down to the region having the highest percentage of essential workers, with 27 per cent of its workforce continuing to work during lockdown.

“We had more people working so not as many places were locked down to take the wage subsidy.”

The farming sector continued to work, as did meat work plants and the Tiwai aluminium smelter, all big employers in the south.

“When they are still working, and although their productivity may not have been as high, we didn’t have as many businesses needing that wage subsidy.”

She said it was great that Southland could continue being productive without having to rely on Government money.

The Invercargill Licensing Trust was one business that did need the wage subsidy given its bars and restaurants were closed during lockdown.

Chief executive Chris Ramsay said the subsidy enabled the trust to secure remuneration for its staff until Southland returned to alert level 2 and its businesses reopened.

The trust’s bars and restaurants had not turned a profit under the new alert level 2 rules, he said.

However, they had remained open to “provide a service” to the public and to secure the employment of its staff.

Ramsay said the dropping of 100 people to 50 in indoor spaces during the current alert level 2 was frustrating, given the trust owned bars that could take more than 100 people and adhere to social distancing rules without compromising safety.

“It’s probably having a larger impact on bars like ours than it would on some smaller establishments.”

Ramsay said turnover at its bars and restaurants dropped by about 20 percent under level 2 in 2020 but turnover was down least 40 per cent under the current level 2, due to the increased restrictions.

“It’s an alert level where we have got businesses open but they are not running profitably.”

In Otago, 43,000 jobs [35 per cent of all jobs] were supported by the wage subsidy in August, the ministry figures show.

Published by The Southland Times – 14 September 2021